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Capitol Riot Response Hindered by Backlash to George Floyd Protest Response, Senate Report Shows

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Protesters scale a wall as they storm the U.S. Capitol Building during clashes with Capitol police at a rally to contest the certification of the 2020 presidential election results in Washington, D.C., January 6, 2021. (Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)

The Department of Defense’s response to the January 6 Capitol riot was colored by criticism it had received about its response to unrest after the murder of George Floyd, according to a new Senate report.

A bipartisan group of senators on Tuesday released a report on the Capitol riot and offered recommendations to prevent a similar breach going forward.

“DOD’s response to January 6 was informed by criticism it received about its response to the civil unrest after the murder of George Floyd during the summer of 2020,” the report reads. “DOD was criticized for its heavy-handed response, particularly flying military helicopters over the protests in summer 2020.”

It adds: “DOD officials cited lessons learned from the summer 2020 as guiding its decision-making for January 6. DOD officials believed it needed ‘control measures’ and ‘rigor’ before deploying DCNG personnel, including a clear deployment plan to avoid the appearance of overmilitarization.”

The decision came in the wake of criticism over a clash between law enforcement officers and protesters in Washington, D.C.’s Lafayette Square and surrounding streets in June 2020. Law enforcement used tear gas and other riot control tactics to clear protesters from the area to allow then-President Trump and senior administration officials to walk to St. John’s Episcopal Church. 

The report is the result of a months-long investigation conducted by the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and the Senate Rules Commitee. The groups announced the investigation just two days after the riot occurred. 

The probe included two hearings, the review of thousands of documents, and interviews with workers from the Capitol Police and various law enforcement agencies, according to a press release.

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